Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Baby needs to be changed
It’s my favourite season of the year – award season! The Academy Award nominees were announced this week, although that occurred after this article was written. Unless I have totally misread the situation, we should be seeing some very worthy people being honoured, including Sylvester Stallone for Rambo IV, Jessica Alba for The Love Guru, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua director Raja Gosnell.
There will also undoubtedly be some non-deserving winners, as was the case four years ago, when a less than stellar film captured four awards, including Best Picture. That film was Million Dollar Baby.
Now don’t let the title of the film confuse you. It is not in fact about a baby. Although it is full of two things you have to deal with when raising a baby – crying, and excrement. However, while raising a baby is quite rewarding, this film will leave you feeling empty inside.
In Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a crotchety old boxing trainer who takes female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hilary Swank) under his wing. While Dunn as first is reluctant to embark on this journey with Maggie, he eventually gives in, and before long she is collecting the winner’s share of the purse in all her fights. That’s not just an expression – in women’s boxing they literally fight for a purse. It’s a pretty pink one with lots of compartments for carrying lipstick and makeup.
Morgan Freeman also stars in the film as Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris, a friend and employee of Dunn’s. Longtime readers of this column are well aware of my distain for Freeman’s acting abilities, or rather disabilities. Why in the name of God (who Freeman has played twice) do people keep hiring this man, who is incapable of acting his way out of a paper bag?
Speaking of paper bags, can someone place one over the head of Hilary Swank? She certainly isn’t getting by on her looks, or her talent for that matter. How has she garnered two Best Actress Oscars? The only bright spot in her career was a brief spot on the classic sitcom “Growing Pains” as a love interest for Ben Seaver.
Speaking of “Growing Pains”, here is an interesting tidbit. Did you know that it was the only American sitcom in the 1980s that the Chinese government allowed to be broadcast on their airwaves? The show is tremendously popular over there because of its family values. Jeremy Gold, who played Ben Seaver still gets acting work over there as a result. Try using that bit of trivia as a conversation starter at your next family dinner. I can picture it now:
Grandma: “Please pass me some of that potato salad.”
You: “Sure thing Grandma. But before I do, I’m going to need you to tell me which American sitcom aired in China in the 1980s.”
Grandma: “Oh, I don’t know, “Night Court” maybe?”
You: “No, I’m sorry Granny. The answer I was looking for was “Growing Pains”. I’m afraid I can’t pass you the potato salad.”
Grandma: “Dr. Reynolds told me I have six months to live.”
Anyways, back to Hilary Swank sucking. Her career has been in the crapper since those “Growing Pains” days, and this was probably her worst performance of them all. Trust me, you do not want to see her fight, and you certainly do not want to see her box.
Speaking of actors being in a slump, that brings me to Clint Eastwood. The man is 78 years old, has been in the business for decades, and only has two quality films to show for it – Every Which Way You Can, and Every Which Way But Loose, in which he starred as a bare knuckle boxer/truck driver who traveled with an orangutan. Those two films account for the good portion of his career. The rest of his films, including Million Dollar Baby, account for the baby and ugly portions.
Now I usually don’t include spoilers in these reviews, but I case it isn’t clear at this point, I am advising that you do not watch this film. So I’ll just ruin the ending for you. Maggie gets paralyzed after a post-match cheap shot, and doesn’t want to live her life as a quadriplegic. She pleads with Dunn to ease her suffering. He respects her wishes and helps her commit euthanasia. If only he had killed her 5 minutes into the film he could have put us all out of our misery.
The film was written by Paul Haggis, a Fanshawe College dropout. That just goes to show you kids – stay in school, or you might get in a dead end job, like writer of terribly overrated films. Million Dollar Baby was KO’ed before the opening bell.